Beer Review: Birra Peja Pilsner

ANOTHER bottle of beer from another part of the world. When I spotted this in a local shop for just over £1, I had to try it. This is Birra Peja Pilsner.

There’s not much to say about the little brown bottle. The labels don’t make it much of a product to look at either. I think it looks a little like Holsten Pils. You can just tell that this is going to come from somewhere a little unusual. But where?

Birra Peja Pilsner neck label

The neck label certainly doesn’t tell us. It sticks to the basics of the logos plus an established date of 1971. Not exactly brimming with heritage, is it?

Birra Peja Pilsner front label

The big roundel that is the front label is where to look for the answers. It has a logo that looks like a shield. The picture on it is hard to make out though. Is that a bridge spanning two mountains?

The top border, I think, says something about being a quality beer. The bottom border of the roundel, then, is the place to divert your eyes. That’s because it says “Kosova’s Finest Beer”. That’s right, this beer is apparently from Kosova. That’s one more country to tick off the list, as this will be not only my first beer from Kosova, but from the Balkans.

To check that Kosova it is indeed located where I think it is, I begin Googling. Watching the news over the past few years tells me that the Balkan politics makes the Middle-East seem as simple as breathing. First port of call was a Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosova. A page that tells us that that “Kosova” is the Albanian name for “Kosovo”. The same place that in February 2008 declared itself independent, but which only some other countries recognise. What with the pushing and shoving from the Serbian people and their Russian friends, it’s a miracle this bottle escaped to London at all.

As is the way with many of these imported bottles, this one has a little white sticker. And here it is.

The unusual thing is, this one wasn’t imported by a British firm. It was imported by a German one. This bottle therefore comes courtesy of Kelmendi Import & Export, Ratingen-Homberg, Deutschland.

Fortunately, we still have a proper back label to entertain ourselves with. And what’s more, some of it is written in English.

Birra Peja Pilsner back label

Usually, brewers like to write something on the back label that describes the beer. Something that sums up the quality or the history. Or, at very least, some hokum dreamt up by people who practice something called marketing. In the case of Birra Peja Pilsner, we get none of those things. Instead, we have the terse, technical and unglamorous term “Pasteurized beer”.

The next detail tells us that this was brewed and bottled by “Birra Peja”. Who come from Pejë. Which is presumably a place within Kosovo, or Kosovë as they spell it.

Next up is the list of ingredients. This one mentions water, barley malt and hops.

Under that is this bottle’s vital statistics. As you’ve probably guessed, this is the regular 0.33L bottle. The alcoholic volume is a surprisingly low 4%. That’s surprising because the Polish like their considerably stronger. It appears as if people from the Balkans, or at very least Albanians like their beer to be less anti-social. The other little detail on there is that this has an “Extract 11.0%”. Whatever that means.

Lastly, tucked away at the very bottom of the label is the web address. The one this one has printed on it, is www.birrapeja.com. I’ve just had a quick look, and like nearly every other, it’s Flash dominated. That said, it’s the least flashy Flash driven site I’ve seen for a while. If you’re after the facts and answers quickly, it’s a surprisingly effective place to start.

Time to crack open this bottle and answer some questions. This time, those questions are what will it taste like? And… as this is the first beer I’ve tried from Kosovo or the Balkans, that’s about it really. I’m fascinated to find out.

If you like to pour your beer into a glass, watch out. This one comes with a big head. And, unlike lots of others, this one doesn’t die down in a hurry. A few moments later now, and it’s a big, undulating layer of froth. The beer itself is a very lager looking pale yellow colour. Things aren’t looking good.

Fortunately, it smells a bit better. Yes it has that familiar, lagery smell of malted barley. Somehow though, Birra Peja Pilsner succeeds in smelling warm, rich and malty. All of which is making the taste a mystery. What will it taste like?

A couple of gulps in, and I’m enjoying how Birra Peja Pilsner tastes. Being a pilsner style lager, it doesn’t have much flavour. What it does have is a light, malted barley aftertaste. The familiar, lagery “bite” is very light and subtle. The whole bitter aftertaste experience rolls in, passes by and leaves your mouth with a lingering, tangy bitterness. It’s also a different experience to many other bottles, which scores it points for distinctiveness and character.

What is there to like about Birra Peja Pilsner? A bit more than with many lagers. I like the light, malted barley taste. I think the “bite” isn’t as strong and off-putting as with some lagers. I also think the aftertaste is nowhere near as revolting as many other lagers are. All of which makes Birra Peja Pilsner rather drinkable.

Nearing the end of the bottle now, and there are some things about Birra Peja Pilsner that are putting me off. For one thing, that insane head could be a problem if you like to drink your beer from the glass. It’s quite a gassy beer. Although both of those things could be because of a bumpy ride from Peja, Kosovo to London. Because it’s a lager, it has no real flavour. The aftertaste, which seemed terrific at first is starting to annoy me. It’s lingering badly now and not in a pleasant way. That’s something stopping it from being clean and refreshing, which a good pilsner lager should aim for.

It’s a mixed result for Birra Peja Pilsner. It tasted great at first, but by the end of the bottle, it tasted foul. If I visit Kosovo, which some day, I hope to do, I’ll happily drink Birra Peja Pilsner. If you’re curious to try bottles of lager from unusual places, then Birra Peja Pilsner is one to try. Lager aficionados will probably get a kick from it too. Personally, I won’t be buying up any more bottles of the stuff.

Rating: 2.15

Have you tried Birra Peja Pilsner? Are you from Kosovo? What reputation does it have there and can you offer up any translations?

Do please leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations here.

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25 Responses to “Beer Review: Birra Peja Pilsner”

  1. Kastriot Says:

    You’re an asshole, motherfuckin’ intolerant dick. Apparently, you have no clue what beer is. So, piss off.

  2. adrian Says:

    HI there
    I’m Adrian and I work in brewery of Birra Peja. I’m pleased to give you some informations about our beer. “Birra Peja” is the one and only brewery in Kosovo and it’s presence in Kosova trade is around 78% untill now. We have a lot of imported beer’s in our country and we are working hard to realize our target, which is 95% of trade. Last year we begin with can’s 0.5l, non alchoholic beer 0.33l ” Birra Peja- Zero”, and a premium brand 0.33l ” Birra Peja- Premium”, we also are present with draughts “Birra Peja Pislner” and we ofer kegs in 30L and 50L. Imported beers in Kosovo are : Heineken, Becks, Warstainer, Foster’s, Skopsko, Niksicko, Jelen, Miller, Corona, Peroni, Urquell Pils, Tuborg, Mythos, Dos Exi, Guinnes, Kilkeny, Osijecko and a lot of other beers from all over the world, and like I say we dominate with 78% in trade. It is a fact which proves that “Birra Peja” is a very good beer and consumers like it very much. We have a lot of Interantional staff in Kosovo and they prefere “Birra Peja” more than imported beers.
    I’m sotty about my poor english but I tried to give you some informations about “Birra Peja” and trade in Kosova.
    Sincerly Adrian

    • Betty Says:

      Hi Adrian, I am a collector of beer cans (no bottles). I ask if the factory Peja produces the can from 33 centiliters. I have only found the can from 50 centiliters. Please let me know. Thanks. Elisabetta

  3. Jurgen Says:

    Dear Hywel,
    From all the texts about all reviews you made, I can say that you tried to present yourself as a very capable and experienced reviewer. I personally work as a brew master for 12 years.
    Your reviews are for a shame and you should be working something else because it is very obvious that you are a show off person who thinks that you know best and in reality I hope you don’t believe nonsense’s coming out of your mouth.
    You want to present yourself as an expert on labels, on declarations, on design, on ingredients, on every possible thing that a product contains. Over all, you present yourself as an expert on beer taste and just a fact that you change your opinions like “in the beginning I liked and afterwards not so much” tells us that you don’t understand not a bit of every “test” you made.
    I would suggest you to start working something else and stop embarrassing yourself with what you are doing. If I were you, I would become a plumber or so, I would find a job where I don’t have to talk to anyone because the moment you say something, a person can see the shallowness that you posses.
    Listen to me,
    Never write another line as a review because you don’t have a smallest idea what are you saying.

  4. Mr Kartallozi Says:

    Birra Peja” aims at conquering regional market

    Angela Griep

    The convoy of KTA vehicles entered the gate of the factory in the early morning. UNMIK Pillar IV and KTA officials, accompanied by the head of the Workers Union BSPK visit the brewery to check if the company met the privatisation conditions. The newly refurbished factory is wide awake. Workers in new uniforms are already working in full speed to the sound of the bottles being transported by fast belts. A faint smell of beer is hanging in the air.

    Sebastjan Gergeta, Chief Executive Officer of Birra Peja proudly presents all measures taken by the company to refurbish the factory and improve its productions capacities. A new bottling line was purchased, along with a new bottle packing unit, a machine to put the label on the bottles and a new unit which adds the CO2 to the beer. Furthermore the company bought new transport vehicles.

    Peja Brewery, a formerly Socially Owned Enterprise (SOE), was privatised in the 8th wave of privatisation under the auspices of the Kosovo Trust Agency. The company was well known in former Yugoslavia. However, the war in Kosovo affected the brewery with most of its equipment stolen and the infrastructure destroyed. The winning bidder “Birra Peja Partnership” paid more than €11m and committed himself to investing an additional €15m.

    An important matter for the new owners was the supply with Barley. CEO Gergeta therefore explains to the visitors the new programme the brewery implemented to ensure a sufficient supply with barley. The brewery supplies a number of independent farmers with seeds who in turn sell the barley to the brewery as a preferred customer. This concept opens new opportunities for the agricultural sector as well.

    The KTA and BSPK officials praise the management of Birra Peja for their successful work. “The investments in the brewery exceeded their obligations. I’ve just seen that there are 595 employees. New investments in the production of cans will further increase the number of workers and the production,” says Paul Acda, the head of UNMIK Pillar IV, at the visit.

    Today “Birra Peja” is one of the most popular beers in Kosovo. Gergeta explains that it is being sold in three types of packages. The brewery produces small glass bottles, two litre plastic bottles and draft beer. A canned beer production line will be introduced soon.

    With the investments and new concepts, “Birra Peja” aims at a long-term objective: The enterprise wants to enter the regional market. Praising the taste and quality of the beer Mr. Acda called that a realistic goal. “With such good quality, the prospect of joining the European market is imminent; however, it is difficult to reach countries which have their own beer production such as Slovenia or Macedonia. But this is such a high-quality product that will certainly do well on foreign markets,” he stated.

    Birra Peja UK LTD
    Mob: 077 66 56 20 35
    Mob: 078 27 29 29 26
    Off: 0207 372 65 62
    fax: 0207 681 97 76
    Birra Peja is in UK and ther office is in NW London

  5. agim Says:

    If you think birra dont taste good than you dont know how to taste beer ok
    I live in USA and there is more beer here than any other place in the world
    is you ask me about the best top 10 beers birra peja should be one of them
    and it wont take to long to get there

  6. Spumoni! « Send The Bugger Back Says:

    […] cheap little place called Pizziera Rona. 3.50 for a decent pizza and a bottle of the local pilsner, Peja (very […]

  7. BEKRI IBISHI Says:

    Pershendetje per ju dhe firmen tuaj mjafte prestigjioze.

    Me prodhimin tuaj po realizoni sukseset tuaja,e kjo do te thote se “aty ke eshte prodhimi kualitativ eshte edhe suksesi i realizueshem”.
    Ju uroj pune te mbare dhe suksese te metutjeshme.

    SINQERISHT;
    Z.BEKRI IBISHI.
    JURIST I DIPLOMUAR.
    FERIZAJ.

  8. Naim from Sweden Says:

    You dont know what beer is if you dont like this one. In Kosova and on the Balkan, this is the most wanted beer!

  9. yozzge Says:

    weyrurujrjuijjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjreyyyyyyyyyyyyol86ere8l8fc66666666666666666666lw;;;e..hgtl76/w”j@h@@@@@22222@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@2jfujhygu#######################################################################################################################################################^^^^^^^^^^66666^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&******************************((((((((((((((())))))))))))))))))________________________________________________________+++++++++++++++++++++//////////*******—

  10. agnesa qamili Says:

    prenoje

  11. Manuel Says:

    Mirdita te nderuar gjith stafi i birra peja ,per birren e Pejes mendoj qe esht me e mira ne rajon me te vertet po ja them ,suksese te me tutjeshme per firmen tuaj pun te mbar ditemir

  12. Petrit Says:

    Birra Peja is one of the worst beers in the world. Low quality, poorly made in one of the most corrupted countries of the world. Long live Heineken beers.

  13. bobby A. Says:

    dear hywell,
    in a nutshell i think a great deal of your “review” was based off the background of the country it came from, birra peja isnt a old company that dates back more then 41 years ago (as explained on the bottle) which can only mean one thing, there is no big story to make up or, as you said “sum up the quality” next time you write a review i think you should focus more toward “summing up your experience” i wish i can post a picture of my nice foamy birra pejas.. as far as for you hating slavs. suck it =) and one more thing, “bac u cry”
    cheers.

    Fact is birra peja will continue to grow cause of its unique taste.
    its a excellent beer, and as to everyother beer out there. people will always have they’re choices.

  14. Kosovoirish Says:

    What to say, I am a regular Peja drinker and I have to agree on some of the points that Hywell makes. I basically drink to get drunk and for 2 Euros a pint, Peja is the best deal in Europe. Drinking the draft I tend to get a really bad headach, it might be caused by the amount of Peja I drank the night before.

    I am looking at the lable now, and you are right, they should make it a little more exciting. As far as the after taste, I stopped noticing it after about my 3rd beer. No foam problems with the draft.

    My favorite bar in Kosovo goes through about 2 big kegs on weekend nights.

  15. Zdeněk Hobza Says:

    Dobrý den,jsem sběratelem pivních etiket,má je z 187 světa,avšak od Vás z Kosova ani jednu.Můžete mi nějaké čisté nepoužité etikety poslat-obratem zašlu já Vám velkou kolekci etiket z mnoha pivovarů v České republice,.
    S pozdravem Zdeněk HOBZA
    Družstevní 1021/24
    674 01 Třebíč 1
    Česká republika.

  16. Boris Says:

    Just a few years ago,that beer was called Pećko pivo (or Peć’s beer),in Serbian language.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriarchate_of_Peć

  17. daniel Says:

    where did you buy it from in london? i want some

  18. Shemi Hakaj Says:

    agoni

  19. No Says:

    Peja is NOT the only Kosova brewery.
    Hugo’s brewery is in Kamenica/Kamanice nectar the administrative boundary line with Serbua. This brewery is not operating all the te like Peja, however.

  20. newtory Says:

    I am a Brit living in Kosovo for the next year or so and let me tell you, Peja is absolutely awesome. It’s best on Draught!

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